After much deliberation, Happy Mag are proud to unveil the cohort of 30 Needle In The Hay Finalists for 2021!
Needle In The Hay is an annual competition created to give artists a shot in the arm when they need it most. With a grand prize of having your single pressed to vinyl and over $30,000 runner-up prizes to be won, it’s currently Australia’s largest independent music competition.
After sifting through thousands of entries, today Happy Mag reveals the 30 Needle In The Hay finalists, who will all be in contention for that prize pool.
So what happens now? From here, these 30 finalists are in the hands of Needle In The Hay’s guest judges; artist Megan Washington, producer Eric J, TV and radio host Julia Zemiro, and journalist Bernard Zuel. Their votes will decide the ultimate winners, who will be unveiled in the coming weeks.
In alphabetical order, here are the 2021 Needle In The Hay finalists:
Angus1 – Champagne
Based in Sydney, Angus1 makes eclectic, vocal-led electronic music which places a devastatingly clear mirror upon himself.
His single I Can Tell Your Laugh Is Fake is a brutally honest account of rejection, and Champagne – the song he entered into Needle In The Hay – is about drinking himself “into oblivion as a young man to avoid all kinds of insecurities”.
Babitha – Get Away
Her entry Get Away landed at perhaps the perfect time – as the world at large felt the walls closing in thanks to pandemic-induced lockdowns, the idea of going off-grid sounded sweeter and sweeter.
Bitch Diesel – Red Love Witch
“…to make everybody have a bit of a lol and stop taking themselves so seriously… then world domination by playing a bit of rock and roll…”
That’s the scat that opens Red Love Witch by Bitch Diesel, a three-piece punk outfit from Melbourne. Recorded and produced by Tropical Fuck Storm’s Gareth Liddiard, this one’s a real live wire.
Bluey – Everybody Hates Me In My Dreams
Everybody Hates Me In My Dreams from Melbourne’s Bluey is simple but arresting. Released in April 2020, it’s his one of his only tracks you’ll find online.
There’s not much to know about Bluey yet, but this single promises magnificent things to come.
Cool Sounds – Vice
There’s few Australian bands named as perfectly as Cool Sounds. Another talent from Melbourne, they’ve been making pitch-perfect indie rock since getting together in the mid 2010s.
Vice was originally released as part of Stay Inside: Songs from the Great Indoors, a joint effort between six Australian indie labels made to benefit artists in lockdown.
Daniel Trakell – Come To
Meet Daniel Trakell, a Melbourne artist echoing the poignant melodies of Fleet Foxes or The Shins with a touch of DIY, Elliott Smith charm.
Layering easy vocal melodies over acoustic guitars and a soft beat, then powdering the whole lot with some deftly placed slide guitar, Come To was released as a 2020 single before appearing on Trakell’s latest album Warning Bell.
Earthquake Magnificent – Trick of the Light
Blending elements of disco and indie pop, Trick of the Light from Earthquake Magnificent is impossible not to be charmed by. Led by songwriter Charles Wu, the three-piece band hail from Sydney.
The single comes coupled with a fun, DIY film clip that everyone should watch.
Emalia – Suga Rush
Emalia is proving to be one of Australia’s biggest emerging forces in R&B. Inspired by the likes of SZA, her music twists the old and the new into something fresh-faced that’s wholly her own.
Suga Rush hit the world in August 2020, capturing Emalia’s growing fanbase instantly, and it hasn’t let up since.
Emma Volard – Femininity
A neo-soul artist from Melbourne, Emma Volard’s lyrics just hit different. Femininity is an anthem of reclamation following a 2020 incident that saw multiple female Australian artists share stories about a predatory male photographer. As Volard put it in a press release:
“It has become clear to me that many men in the industry are using their power to take advantage of women in vulnerable positions. In no circumstance is this okay, systemic sexism and ignorance is no longer an excuse. We need to fight this together, we need men to be our allies not our gender’s undoing.”
Franki Kaneur – howareyouonmymind
A fresh face from the Byron Bay hinterland, indie artist Franki Kaneur is making on-trend pop with a beautifully dark edge.
howareyouonmymind is a desperate love song backed up by some seriously impressive production. Listen to it below.
Gareth Thomas – Wake Up
Gareth Thomas – a character you may know from Fazerdaze and Goodshirt – released Wake Up in October 2020, a song dedicated to his girlfriend who doesn’t love getting up in the mornings.
“I wanted to write an alarm clock song – it’s an untapped genre”, he told Happy Mag. “All the first dance songs are taken by Ed Sheeran, and Christmas songs aren’t my thing.”
Hachiku – Bridging Visa B
Milk Records signee Hachiku is no new face to the Australian scene, having toured with Courtney Barnett, Stella Donnelly, and others.
In 2020 she released her debut album I’ll Probably Be Asleep, where you’ll find Bridging Visa B, a gorgeous little album track and her Needle In The Hay entry.
Hannah Cameron – Backsliding
Hannah Cameron makes quiet and arresting folk music that holds subtlety at its core – these aren’t sing-from-the-hilltops anthems, rather slow burners that are made to take you on a journey.
Her Needle In The Hay entry, Backsliding, does just that.
Hedy Blaazer – Elvis Impersonator
Based between Sydney and Canberra, Hedy Blaazer is a singer/songwriter with a penchant for potent lyrics and incredible visual storytelling.
Elvis Impersonator opens with a fantastic opening line about eloping to Las Vegas and only gets better from there.
High Tropics – Caroline
Caroline is a love song that echoes the best of the noughties’ indie heroes.
Indigo Sparke – Colourblind
In the vein of Aldous Harding or Julia Jacklin, Indigo Sparke is often happy for her voice to take the fore.
Backed by an acoustic guitar and barely a hint of percussion, Colourblind is a song that flies high without ever having to lift off.
J-MILLA – Unlock The System
The track J-MILLA entered into Needle In The Hay is special for a number of reasons – and devastating for perhaps even more. Unlock The System was written following the death of 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker at the hands of policeman Zachary Rolfe in 2019.
The artist in question is a 22-year-old Mak Mak Marranungu man, born in Darwin. With the court case surrounding Rolfe’s death approaching this July, Unlock The System is only about to become more important.
Jannah Beth – Unreleased
It’s hard to pin Jannah Beth down. Her sound combines elements of hip-hop, neo soul, funk, and electronic, and each release is as wonderfully eclectic as the last.
Jannah Beth entered an unreleased track into Needle In The Hay this year, so be sure to follow her socials to be the first to know when it comes out.
Johnny Hunter – Try As You May
Johnny Hunter’s blend of new wave and post-punk influences are evident in their atmospheric guitar work, filled with crystalline melodies. Nick Hutt’s dramatic baritone effortlessly cuts through the mix, and his presence onstage is evident to anyone who’s caught them live.
Try As You May is a standout track from the band’s debut EP, Early Trauma.
Lucy Peach – Your Blood Is Amazing
Your Blood Is Amazing is the opening track of Lucy Peach’s latest EP, Blood Magic. An “anthem to celebrate period power”, it kicks off an EP that’s a potent celebration of the experience every women of the world shares.
The film clip is equally amazing – see it for yourself below.
Maple Glider – Unreleased
A new signing to Pieater, the label home of #1 Dads, Big Scary, Airling and more, Maple Glider is clearly onto something quite special.
With three singles to her name and an album on the way, she’s already picking up fans all over the world. Though her Needle In The Hay entry is currently unreleased, you can look forward to hearing it on Maple Glider’s upcoming debut album To Enjoy is the Only Thing.
Pre-order your copy here.
Miss Lucy – All In A Day
Another brand new voice on the scene, Miss Lucy writes simple songs that stop you in your tracks. Most often backed by electronic percussion and synths, you’ll be humming these tracks long after you stop listening.
All In A Day is that to a tee – catchy, cute, and heartwarming. Listen to it below.
Ninajirachi & Kota Banks – True North
In 2020 Ninajirachi teamed up with Kota Banks for the collaborative album True North, inking in a pairing of one of Australia’s most exciting emerging producers with one of its newest pop stars.
True North, the track, opens the album with gusto, setting the stage for a collection of sky-high, hyperpop-tinged compositions to follow.
NOT A BOYS NAME – Unreleased
Most recently NOT A BOYS NAME released Fuck It Up, a new wave-influenced jam featuring Bec Sandridge. With an unreleased Needle In The Hay entry, Dave Jenkins Jnr. has well and truly let us know there’s more goodness where that came from.
Keep an ear to the ground for this wonderfully weird tune to hit the airwaves.
Quality Used Cars – Ripoff Merchant
A track from their latest album Good Days/Bad Days, Ripoff Merchant from Quality Used Cars is a simple beautiful Australian folk tale.
It’s about selling records online and the quirks that brings. If you’ve ever had a 40-minute phone conversation with a stranger based on your Facebook Marketplace catalogue and a shared love of the Beach Boys, this one’s for you.
Taka Perry – Diamonds
One of the biggest new producers to hit the Australian scene in recent times, Taka Perry has been turning heads on all fronts – for his originals, his collabs with the likes of Stevan, and his remixes alike.
Diamonds is the track that made so many fall in love with him, and a fitting entry into Needle In The Hay.
Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers – Desk Chair
Beloved by pretty much anyone who crosses their path, Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers are quickly becoming one of Australia’s favourite new rock bands.
Desk Chair is amongst their finest tunes to date, ripe with vicious guitars and a chorus that’s made to be screamed from a mosh pit.
Theia – Kitty Kat
Another artist who’s no stranger to Needle In The Hay, Theia is a brilliant alt-pop artist from New Zealand.
Her 2020 track Kitty Kat is for any woman who’s ever been asked to dress or act a certain way. Theia’s fangs are out, and that’s the way it’s going to stay.
TOI – Thinking Too Much
Formerly Tunes of I, TOI are a musical collective out of New Zealand who echo the smooth, smooth vibes of Fat Freddy’s Drop.
Thinking Too Much begins with a gorgeous electric piano progression and only gets warmer from there. Listen to it below.
Stay tuned for the announcement of 2021’s Needle In The Hay winners in the coming weeks!
Special thanks to Spinnup, JMC Academy, Zenith Records, JMC Academy, Turramurra Music, IK Multimedia, Zippo, ujam, Baby Audio, Fabfilter, and Jameson Irish Whiskey for being a part of Needle In The Hay 2020.